Mindful meditation has been shown to be an effective way to reduce pain. This is because it interrupts the communication between the different regions of the brain that are involved in the experience of pain. By learning how to focus attention on one’s breath and bodily sensations, people can train their brains to better deal with pain. Through mindfulness meditation, people may be able to learn how to accept and live with chronic pain.
Mindfulness meditation has been used for centuries to relieve pain, but neuroscientists are only just studying the techniques and analyzing the results. The latest research was carried out by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, which measured the effects of mindfulness on pain perception and brain activity.
On the first day of the study, 40 participants were given a brain scan while painful heat was applied to their legs. More of these heat stimuli were performed, and all participants were asked to rate their average pain levels during the experiment.
Participants were then separated into two groups. One group was required to complete four separate 20-minute mindfulness training sessions. During these sessions, they were instructed to focus on their breath and process thoughts, sensations, and emotions by letting them go without judgment or reaction. Participants in the control group spend their four hours listening to an audiobook.
On the final day of the study, both groups of participants had their brain activity measured again. However, this time, the mindfulness group was not instructed to medicate during the painful heat, while the control group resisted the pain with their eyes closed.
It was found that participants who were actively meditating saw a 32 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 33 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Researchers were able to link specific areas of the brain that had been deactivated or decoupled during meditation to a decrease in pain. For many people struggling with chronic pain, this study offers a new, fast-acting, and non-pharmacological treatment for pain.
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